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AMENDING or JUST REPLAYING HISTORY?
Duncan Dayton

Do you consider vintage racing to be just another weekend “hobby” that simply replays the glorious past, possibly an alternative to driving golf balls or braking for garage sales, or do you believe the exciting “on track” exploits are actually adding to the legacy of our historic racecars?

After a moment’s thought, you’ll probably realize it’s a perplexing question whose answer is neither black nor white, but a Technicolor array of reactions, or more appropriately, opinions that reflect a driver’s own idyllic view of vintage racing and its increasing importance in today’s racing environment.

Unquestionably, vintage racing left its innocence many years ago as a purely recreational enterprise. This is easily reinforced by the visual population explosions of 40–foot trailers, technological advancements, the growth of cottage industries supporting this endeavor, and even the elevated level of competition among the ranks. But does this evolution legitimize the sport to where its participants are amending racing’s illustrious history, especially for those fortunate few who are wheeling one of the many historic “stars” of the sport’s heritage?

To qualify this point, we have only to go back to April of this year when Duncan Dayton wheeled the ex–Jacques Villeneuve Reynard 95 Indy racecar to a new Road Atlanta lap record at the Walter Mitty Challenge vintage event. This achievement may be an aberration, nevertheless, all of vintage racing will celebrate Dayton’s accomplishment that will no doubt now be part of motorsport’s permanent record.

The greater majority of vintage participants knowingly will never ever be afforded an opportunity to record such a feat. Apparently, this seemingly doesn’t diminish their desire to press their racecars, as one–driver notes, “to heights it never experienced in its youthful form.” Clearly a dynamic viewpoint that will send shivers up the purist spines whose paramount goal is to preserve the breedInsight̵AmendingRewritingHistory.htmls survival, downplay winning and discourage pushing the envelope. Still, it’s a valid point of view that has its antagonists, supporters and will certainly fuel a future of controversy, especially when addressing machinery adorning a “celebrated” race history.

Of the numerous pilots fortunate to currently be competing in “historic” equipment, there’s a large group who is “very happy enjoying the sensation and view from the cockpit that the predecessors had”, states racer and restorer, David George, adding, ’there’s no confusion, we are not them either.” David frequently enjoys the landscape from a 1938 Alfa–Romeo, a prewar grand prix car driven in a post WWII Formula National in Argentina by Juan Manuel Fangio.

It’s a humbling viewpoint shared by countless others who reiterate that it’s a real honor to showcase machinery with a distinguished history. “We are just curators of these cars, the real history has already been written, and written very well”, remarks, Ken Epsman (owner/driver ex–Sam Posey’s ’71 Challenger T/A).

Two other active racecars dressed in history and currently burning up the blacktop are Pat Ryan’s ex–Mark Donohue ’67 Penske Trans–Am lightweight Camaro and Jim Freeman’s ex–Jim Clark, Innes Ireland, Roy Salvadori and Tom Magby’s Aston Martin DB4GT (Aston Martin’s most distinguished and one of only three specially built lightweight and competitive versions of the GT/non-Zagato bodied models). Any one privy to either Pat or Jim’s asphalt concerts will agree wholeheartedly that their thrilling performances are routinely shifting at the redline, collectively earning over 100 vintage victories.

Does their long laundry list of “modern” wins eclipse the racecar’s original legacy, perhaps diluting it completely in the process, or as Pat suggests, “are these new wins just a footnote at best?” Both gentlemen agree that they will “never improve on the provenance and record of the original drivers”, as noted by Jim.

Steve Steers (owner/driver of one of the three Encidna Specials built), just may have cut to the chase by adding, “it’s the racecar and original driver that will always be remembered, not the owner/driver of some 45 years later.”

Alternatively, if we truly believe that vintage is a legitimate racing format, isn’t it then presumptuous to think that these “new” performances are revising history, especially when viewed decades from now? There’s after all, an abundance of enthusiasts who firmly believe that their vintage racing participation is positively a viable action modifiable to all and any previous merits, some going so far as even placing a hired gun in the seat at more serious outings to hedge a victory. Their steadfast belief is “we are adding to the car’s history, otherwise the history would just not be complete”, commented one racing advocate, while another driver raised an interesting notion that his car was basically living a third rebirth, citing all the “new” archival press he and his car have received to justify including the “modern” accolades to its previous history.

The debate surrounding the actual value of vintage racing achievements will surely go on for infinitum, and for the most part be directly related to the individual’s philosophical ideals about the definition of vintage racing as the qualifier. The fact that numerous enthusiasts reflect Bill Sadler’s feelings that vintage racing is basically “great fun”, and have no qualms that their blacktop revival adventures are nothing more than pure entertainment doesn’t distract from the reality that others firmly believe part of the vintage experience is to “educate the younger generation as they come along to how wonderful these cars sound, look and smell” as suggested by vintage racer, Peter Giddings. And at full throttle, I might add.

Apparently, the differences are wide and seemingly unbridgeable at times, but isn’t it exactly this core of diversity that has elevated the sport to greatness? Remember, the next time you’re at a vintage race, you may be watching history, or history being made......Walter Pietrowicz

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